The Longest 15 Minutes of My Life

I was one hour and 45 minutes into a hike with Jasper on the 50-Year trail in Catalina State Park when I met a couple on the trail, also walking a dog.

In typical fashion, Jasper started bouncing to greet his wannabe friend.

A few seconds into the doggy greeting, Jasper’s legs buckled and he was on the ground.

He struggled to get up a few times and then he’d be down again.

Frantic, I pulled him up and away from the other dog and tried to get him on his feet. In doing so, I found that his head and neck were hot as hades.

I gave Jasper what little water I had left and asked the couple if they had any. The woman produced a doggy bowl into which she poured a little ice water.

With much encouragement from me, Jasper drank most of what was in the bowl.

This is where my freak-out began.

I needed to get Jasper back to camp, which was still 15 minutes away. I didn’t have a phone with me, not that it would have helped. Seriously, who would I call?

“Hello 911, my dog might collapse again any moment.”

Ya, I didn’t think so.

Ergo, the longest 15 minutes of my life.

Walking fast, but not too quickly so as not to exhaust Jasper again – I spouted a continuous stream of “Good Boy!”, “Keep Going!”, “Gonna be home soon!” – along with promises of water-drinking, swimming and anything else I could think of to keep Jasper moving without collapsing.

My worst idea came 2 minutes from the campground when I could see some RV’s through a glade. I left the trail and the farther we got into it, the thicker it became with thorny plants and trees.

When we finally emerged, my arms and legs were scratched and bleeding.

I then speed-walked back to our site, responding only to our neighbour John’s howdy with a “Jasper collapsed on the trail!!!!” and then home-free to the exterior water faucet where I doused him with cold water.

John, the neighbour, showed up shortly thereafter with a packet of Emergen-C, which we added to Jasper’s bucket of drinking water. (What a GREAT idea!!)

3 hours later and Jasper seems in top form, but I still feel guilty. I can count on both hands how many times I’ve cried in the last 5 years and today was one of those times (after all was said and done).

Lesson learned – don’t go hiking midday in the desert with your dog, even if you’ve done it 100 times before.

UPDATE – Jasper wasn’t de-hydrated. Read my follow-up to find out what was really wrong. UGH!


  1. Wow, what an amazing story. Just reading it my heart was in my throat. Of course I’m in such poor cardiovascular condition at the moment I can only vaguely stretch my imagination to conceive of even having the stamina to exhaust my teeny little Maltese. But still the emotion of what it must’ve felt like was still there all the same.

    • Rosalind Gardner says:

      Hi Sabrina,

      The good thing about your dog — you could throw her in a backpack and run back. :-)
      Jasper not so much. He weighs 72 pounds.


  2. Sure glad Jasper’s alright. Many years ago when I was young and foolish….we were camping in the Rockies and I went for a day hike alone with 2 labs. Crossed some rocky terrain heading up the mountain and when we headed back down, one of the dogs who had one weak leg refused to cross the rocks again. The valley below looked like a meadow so I decided we would go down and around. Big mistake. That meadow turned out to be chest high thickets. Sun going down, temperature plunging and I was totally under-dressed. After plowing through that thicket for what seemed like forever, we finally came upon an old mining road. After walking a ways, the dogs were spent to the point of collapse and I was cut, bruised, shivering uncontrollably and exhausted to the point of heaving. Then I spotted a guy standing next to his jeep not too far off. OMG I was never so happy to see another human. By the time he drove us around the mountain it was late. And we still had to make it halfway back up the mountain to camp. Needless to say I learned several very valuable lessons that day but the big one which I’ve never forgotten…. NEVER EVER go into the wilderness could be the last mistake you make.

    • Rosalind Gardner says:

      Hey Brian,

      Wow! What a story. Thanks for sharing and I’m so glad it turned out well for you.


      • Yes I was lucky. By the way, this was in the Arapaho National Forest outside of what was then a peaceful little town that you may have heard of Breckenridge. Not long after came the Eisenhower Tunnel and the resulting ski boom which transformed the area forever.

        • Rosalind Gardner says:

          And what they call ‘progress’ makes those of us who love the peace and quiet of the wilderness look farther afield all the time. Fortunately, there’s still tons of it in B.C. and Alaska. :-)

  3. Roz, I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. I would have cried too. It’s hard when something happens to our pets like that. Glad your neighbor had the idea for the emergenc, good going. Hugs to you and Jasper. You’re a good dog mommy!

  4. Hi Ros;

    As a former resident of Arizona, I know that journeys to the desert must be done with precautions. And this holds very strongly when pets are involved. What you’ve described sounds to me as though Jasper had a classic (and dangerous) case of heat exhaustion. When taking pets to the wilderness, prepare for them as for yourself. After all, “dogs are people too.”

    I’m glad all worked out well and I admire your dedication to make it happen.

    I also add that, the desert being such a harsh environment, thankfully you had to rescue Jasper instead of Jasper needing to rescue you.

    Thanks for the story and bless you AND Jasper.


    • Rosalind Gardner says:

      Thanks Gary,

      Strange that you should say “thankfully you had to rescue Jasper instead of Jasper needing to rescue you”. Several times during the hike I had wondered what would happen if I became immobilized – would Jasper “go get daddy”? Hmmmm. :-)


  5. Ros,

    Glad your baby boy is ok. Dogs only can cool off through their paws and by panting. And you know they are too goofy to know when to quit, so getting overheated is quite common for our canine buddies. Lots of cool water around the neck and other areas where blood vessels are near the skin surface will cool them down. But hard to find cool water in the desert, eh, even in the winter. …

    Stay cool Jasper (Ros too),


    • Rosalind Gardner says:

      AAAahhh… THAT’s why Jasper likes to dance in his water bowl. :-)

      Didn’t know that about the paws, so thanks for sharing, Lowell!

  6. Oh Ros!

    I’m so sorry that you and Jasper went through such an ordeal. You’re both very lucky that your story has a happy ending. Tough lesson, but that guilt trip you’re on will quite likely keep your baby very well cared for and protected in the future.

    Very glad he’s OK,


  7. Hi!

    Plenty of simple things to learn in life!

    Good Luck and Thanks!
    Howard Hanson

  8. So delighted your Jasper and you are fine. What a fright, Roz. I would have been apoplectic. This was a hard lesson.

    Hugs to you both,


    • Rosalind Gardner says:

      Thanks Floss,

      Guess I’m ‘lucky’ that I don’t do apoplectic due to my training as an air traffic controller. On the downside, however, holding in all that stress means that it manifests itself in undesirable ways for days and sometimes weeks on end afterwards, i.e. get me another beer so I can cope with the guilt and fear. Aargh. :-)


  9. Excellent point, Gary. I was thinking the same and unfortunately there’s no telling if Jasper would have been able to find you or even if he’d been able to get help.

    My advice, get a good survival book. Amazon has tons but my favorite is by far “98 Degrees: The art of keeping your ass alive
    “. Its written by a survivalist originally from the desert so as you can imagine, there should be lots of helpful bits of info pertaining to getting out of a jam in that environment.

    The two main reasons I’d buy and carry this book around are:

    1) it’ll provide a short list of what to take along even
    on the shortest of hikes; and

    2) it you do happen to get into trouble, you’ll know
    how to get out of if (marbles intact)

    Glad you and Jasper made it out and he was back to his normal self after a little bit and thanks for sharing your story… It just may have saved someone else’s life.


  10. Oh Jasper SO needs one of these! I have 2 per dog. My 4 legged friends wear one and the other stays in the fridge or cooler and we alternate them in hot weather! They are invaluable! Another really good tip for hot weather hiking is this, take a covered water dish for Jasper and put it in the freezer the night before you’re going hiking/walking. As the day progresses, it will thaw and he’ll have an ample supply of cold water to drink. I also freeze bottles of water as back ups to carry.

    He loves you so much that he wants to please you at all times, even if it is to his own peril. He won’t tell you he’s in trouble so you have to watch for signs.. Keep an eye on the color of his gums. The lighter they are, the more problems he’s having with heat. So happy this had a happy ending! Good thing both you and John acted quickly!

  11. Oh I’m so glad Jasper is alright. Kate’s suggestion of a Swamp Cooler by Ruff Wear is a must have for hot weather hiking! Another possibility of his incident is hypoglycemia. It’s more common in puppies, but the symptoms you describe are the same. Our vet told us if this were to ever happen, rubbing honey on his gums should show an almost instant improvement!

  12. Anne Smith says:

    So glad you and Jasper made it back safe and sound. Our pets are special to us… Next time, have him carry his water bottle with him….I have seen some dogs doing that on walks..If he is not good with that attach it to his collar…just a thought ..:}

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